From the moment we enter the world vulnerable and naked, we want. Want warmth, comfort, connection, sustenance, attention. At first we want our basic needs met – clean diaper, warm milk, loving touch, sleep, sensory stimulation. Our wants grow from meeting basic needs to wanting to know things, wanting curiosity satisfied, wanting to move and participate, wanting validation and encouragement, celebration, and consolation. We want “stuff” like clothes, toys, electronic gadgets, sports equipment, games, puzzles, books, music… Older still, we want bigger stuff like a car, a home, furniture, travel, jewelry, a swimming pool, major appliances… We never stop wanting our needs to be met though. Especially if they weren’t met when we were little and dependent on older people for everything.
When we don’t get enough of our basic needs met, some people “split” into one of two extreme reactions. 1) Constant craving/clinging, dependence, drama, manipulation, and a seemingly singular focus on more, more, more. Or, 2) Detachment, disdain, refusal, rejection, not caring, not asking, denying wants and needs as much as possible. And it is possible to swing from one extreme to the other over the course of a lifetime. Both extremes have their perceived benefits and unfortunate pitfalls. Neither brings true peace and contentment. Neither fully meets our needs. So, how can we deal in a healthy, reasonable way with today’s wants and needs when so often past wants and needs went unmet?
The first step is to notice what’s going on inside ourselves, notice the wants and needs in detail (slight? intense? critical? frivolous? connection/s to the past? entitled? is there an associated story? is there a specific person involved?). We are all allowed to want what we want when we want it – whether wanting a need to be met or wanting something more. It’s important to be able to identify wants and needs so we can articulate them to others. We are all entitled to ask for 100% of what we want 100% of the time. Interestingly, most people do not take advantage of this 100% opportunity.
This is where things start to get tricky… Wanting is healthy and reasonable. Asking is healthy and reasonable. Having an emotional investment, being “attached” to getting… THAT is a setup for disappointment, suffering, misery, disconnection, and all sorts of unpleasantness. Some of us attach so strongly to our expected outcome that when we don’t get it (especially multiple times in our lives) we eventually say “screw this” repeated intense pain! They then vow to never want and never ask anyone for anything ever again.
Is there a middle ground? A better way through these types of interactions? If so, what does the middle ground LOOK like? How do we separate wanting/needing and screwing up the courage to ask from intense attachment to and fixation on getting what we want? Isn’t that the whole point? To ensure we get the outcome we want?? In a word:
Middle ground and more in part 2! Stay tuned…